If you’re a stakeholder in the healthcare industry, you will be alarmed at the amount of data the sector holds. From patient medical records, clinical trials to intricate billing, the system is overwhelmingly full of disparate information.
Such an avalanche of data requires a technology that can facilitate health information exchange to enable interoperability. And no technology has proved capable of collating and sharing the data more efficiently than blockchain. Arguably, it is the most disruptive innovation of the 21st century and has significantly revolutionized every industry, including healthcare.
Rationale for Use
But why do we need blockchain in healthcare? Well, the typical healthcare information system is overwhelmed with functions, including having backup storage, providing recovery mechanisms, and facilitating updated information-sharing.
The distributed ledger assumes these functions because, as a decentralized ledger, no single point of failure can necessitate a backup. Also, a version of data is copied to every node of the network. Consequently, the volume of transactions is minimized, thus unburdening the healthcare system.
So, let’s break down how blockchain can transform the healthcare sector.
1. Medical Data Management
Blockchain can facilitate the interoperability and exchange of healthcare information. It enables practitioners to track patients in real-time, resulting in improved care coordination.
MedRec is a pioneering example of how a decentralized ledger can transform the healthcare industry. The prototype allows any healthcare provider to access patients’ records, thereby eliminating time wastage and duplication. In essence, the system provides a one-stop-shop where you can obtain your medical history across multiple providers.
The potential of using blockchain in healthcare is already being tested globally in several pilot projects. A US consulting firm is piloting a project that seeks to help the FDA explore the use of the technology. The project uses Ethereum to facilitate data-sharing via virtual private networks and aims to provide healthcare data management solutions.
Additionally, with the prevalence of medical IoT devices or wearable sensors, life-long personal data is increasingly being captured, creating personal health records (PHR). The device then shares real-time healthcare analytics to all related users.
The full PHR service path is becoming a valuable source of data for blockchain service providers. Using decentralized applications (DApps), patients and physicians can participate in telemedicine, thereby eliminating any middlemen fee.
2. Fraud Reduction
In the US, 2017 statistics reveal that improper payments to Medicaid and Medicare totaled $41.2 and $36.2 billion, respectively. With distributed ledger technology, it is easy to minimize fraud. Whether you are a patient or an insurance company, it is easy to pull data from multiple sources at any point in a transaction to ascertain if it’s valid.
In 2019,Insurance company Highmark Inc leveraged AI to generate over $260 million in savings emanating from waste, fraud, and abuse. Over the last five years, the company has saved over $850 million.
3. Health Research and Clinical Trials
Less than 50% of clinical trial sponsors reported the results of their clinical trials within the stipulated time in the US. Earlier statistics also show that an estimated 50% of clinical trials go unreported. It is imperative to have a framework that eliminates selective reporting.
With a decentralized ledger, it’s possible to access research data from any node on the network. It will eliminate fraud, errors, and manipulation since several players within the system can access all details at every stage.
4. Tracking Counterfeit Drugs
Imagine that after manufacturing drugs, they are transferred to wholesalers, who then ship them to retailers before they land into the hands of customers. Quite lengthy? Yes, that is why there is a high incidence of counterfeit drugs infiltrating the market, which denies manufacturers their income.
The pharmaceutical industry is always dealing with the issue of counterfeit drugs intending to stop its prevalence. Available findings reveal that the fake drug market is worth $200 billion, making it a great concern to stakeholders.
Blockchain has the potential to solve the problem. It can allow for the physical asset to move throughout the supply chain while the concerned parties seamlessly share information within the network.
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To elaborate, each company within the supply chain controls a node. When different parties enter into a transaction within the ecosystem, the contract is recorded and validated in the network.
The process simplifies the transfer of data and allows the drug recipients to authenticate the origin of the products. Additionally, it significantly simplifies reconciliations between all the stakeholders involved in the supply chain.
5. Securing Protected Health Information (PHI)
According to data from Protenus Breach Barometer, around 32 million patient records were breached in the first half of 2019. Blockchain technology has the potential to secure protected health information within the healthcare system.
PHI is any demographic information such as name, address, Social Security number (SSN), etc., which can identify a healthcare patient. The existing models of PHI storage, notably Electronic Health Records (EHR), pose a significant risk of a data breach. So if the hardware is exposed to cyber attacks, all the PHI will be at risk.
Although EHR currently uses data backup and encryption, these mechanisms don’t eliminate the risk. A blockchain healthcare model provides patients with ownership of their healthcare records, which they can share with physicians by sharing their decryption key.
6. Personal EHR Data Management
Do you know you can get rich by sharing your health data with researchers? Yes, with smart contacts, you can receive tokens sharing critical health information with health providers and researchers. An example of a fintech that has stamped its authority in this field is Health Wizz.
Unlike the typical EHR’s used by physicians in hospitals, Health Wizz is an EHR aggregator mobile app. It uses blockchain to tokenize data, enabling patients to securely collate, organize, donate, or trade their medical records.
The secret to earning is by using the App’s token, the OmCoin, which you acquire by participating in health-related challenges with others. Also, you can grow wealth by sharing your tokens in the health data marketplace.
Moreover, with Health Wizz, you can now store your health data wherever you wish and access it at any time, anywhere. After all, the App enables you to aggregate all your health records from anywhere. It makes you responsible for your health records.
Another player using blockchain to facilitate personal EHR management is Medicalchain. The company securely stores health records in a distributed ledger and maintains a single version of the truth. Different healthcare agents have to request you for permission to access your medical records from the platform. Therefore, the ledger gives patients more power on who accesses their health data.
7. Reducing The Cost Of Medical Care
The decentralized digital ledger can replace the existing fragmented data systems in today’s healthcare, simplifying record-keeping, and minimizing costs. With distributed ledger technology, insurers, patients, and healthcare providers all read from the same page, creating an audit trail that reduces fraud. Moreover, intermediaries are eliminated from the process, which saves you any additional third- party costs.
Also, blockchain enables all parties in a healthcare system to be aware of their proportionate cost of a service. Moreover, the technology reduces administrative costs through automation of all billing and insurance-related (BIR) activities.